Venezuela frees Malaysian ship

KUALA LUMPUR - The crew and research/survey vessel Teknik Perdana, belonging to local integrated oil and gas services and solutions provider, SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd (SapuraKencana), have been released by Venezuelan authorities.

The ship was boarded by the South American country's navy for checks while it was in disputed waters on Oct 10.

The vessel and its 36-member crew were at Margarita Island conducting a seabed survey for a United States-based company that was working for the Guyana government when the incident took place.

The waters in the area where the survey was conducted was under dispute between the Guyana and Venezuela governments.

The Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry gave aid to the crew, who, together with the vessel, were released yesterday.

SapuraKencana president and group chief executive officer Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin had also met Venezuelan ambassador to Malaysia, Manuel Antonio Guzman Hernandez, to discuss ways to resolve the matter and enquire about the crew's welfare.

"The ambassador gave an assurance that the crew were safe and were treated well by the authorities.

"He said the vessel was taken to Margarita Island for national security reasons, so the authorities could ascertain and verify documentation and equipment that it was indeed engaged in research work."

Shahril expressed his appreciation to Wisma Putra's America Division undersecretary Datuk Syed Sultan Mohd Idris for providing regular updates on the situation.

"A special thanks to Malaysian Ambassador to Venezuela, His Excellency Mahinder Singh, for rushing to the island and being hands-on looking after the welfare of the crew members there."

He said SapuraKencana was in constant touch with the crew members and kept their families informed of the steps taken to secure their release and manage their welfare.

"Several key company officials were sent to Venezuela to look after the welfare of our staff and meet with the navy and government authorities."